The national heroes of the "Age of Discovery" being led by Prince Henry the Navigator
Originally a temporary structure honoring Prince Henry the Navigator (who died exactly 500 years earlier) and glorifying the feats of Portuguese explorers for the propagandistic 1940 “Portuguese World Exhibition,” this monument was rebuilt in concrete and limestone in 1960 to stand as a reminder of the “Age of Discovery.”
The Discoveries Monument is one of Lisbon's main landmarks
It’s shaped like a ship, with 32 figures lined up on a stylized prow, representing personalities from the 15th and 16th centuries following Prince Henry -- only one of them is a woman, Queen Filipa de Lencastre, who was Prince Henry’s mother.
There are sculptures on both sides of the monument
The prince is the tallest figure, measuring 9 meters (26 feet), while those behind him are 7 meters (23 feet) tall. The entire monument is 56 meters (184 feet) tall, 20 meters (66 ft) wide, and 46 meters (151 feet) long. It stands on the waterfront, close to the Belém Tower, from where many of the explorers’ ships departed for their voyages.
View of the Jerónimos Monastery from the top of the Discoveries Monument
Inside is an auditorium (which presents a 47-minute video about the monument every day at 3:30pm) and space for temporary exhibitions. An elevator takes visitors to the terrace at the top, which offers a bird’s-eye view of the river and the monuments of Belém, and of the map of the world on the pavement below. That marble map is inside a 50-meter(164 feet)-wide compass rose, and was a gift from the nation of South Africa, recalling Portugal’s rounding of the Cape of Good Hope, which led to a new sea route to the East. The map shows the routes and dates of the Portuguese voyages, which essentially covered the entire globe. Surrounding the map and the compass rose is a traditional Portuguese wave-patterned cobblestone pavement.
Map of the world on the pavement, showing the routes of the Portuguese explorers
The personalities sculpted on the monument are:
- Afonso de Albuquerque - Governor of Portuguese India
- Bartolomeu Dias - First to sail beyond the southern tip of Africa, past the Cape of Good Hope.
- Diogo Cão - First to reach the Congo
- Francis Xavier - Missionary in Asia
- Martim Afonso de Sousa - The first Royal Governor of Brazil
- Vasco da Gama - Discoverer of the sea route to India
- Afonso Gonçalves Baldaia - Explorer and one of the first settlers of the Azores
- Cristóvão da Gama - Explorer and Vasco da Gama's son
- Estêvão da Gama - Explorer and Vasco da Gama's son
- Gaspar Corte-real - Discoverer of Greenland
- Nicolau Coelho - Explorer who accompanied Vasco da Gama and Cabral
- António de Abreu - First to reach the Moluccas, Timor and possibly Australia.
- King Afonso V - King from 1438 to 1481
- Ferdinand Magellan - The first explorer to circumnavigate the Earth
- João de Barros - Writer and historian
- Pedro Álvares Cabral - Discoverer of Brazil
- Queen Filipa de Lencastre - Mother of Prince Henry the Navigator
- Frei Henrique de Coimbra - Accompanied Pedro Alvares Cabral, and celebrated the first Mass in Brazil.
- Infante D. Fernando - Prince Henry the Navigator's brother
- Jácome de Maiorca - Cartographer
- Nuno Gonçalves - Painter
- Pêro de Alenquer - Piloted the ship S. Gabriel, captained by Vasco da Gama, when traveling to India.
- Fernão Mendes Pinto - Writer
- Gil Eanes - The first to sail beyond Cape Bojador
- João Gonçalves Zarco - Settler of the Madeira islands
- Pedro Nunes - Mathematician
- Pêro de Escobar - Discoverer of São Tomé islands
- Frei Gonçalo de Carvalho - Missionary in India
- Gomes Eanes de Zurara - Chronicler
- Infante D. Pedro - Prince Henry the Navigator's brother
- Luís Vaz de Camões - Poet, author of "The Lusiads."
- Pêro da Covilhã - Diplomat in Asia
There is just one woman on the monument, Queen Filipa de Lencastre, the mother of Prince Henry the Navigator
How to Get to the Discoveries Monument
The Discoveries Monument is located directly across the road from the Jerónimos Monastery, reached via an underpass. It’s just a short walk from the Belém train station, which can be reached on the Cascais train that departs every 20 minutes from Cais do Sodré Station.
The journey from Cais do Sodré to Belém is just seven minutes. You may also take bus 714 or tram 15 from Praça da Figueira downtown, but note that the bus and tram are much slower and much more crowded than the train. You may ride the train, trams and buses for free with the Lisboa Card.
Admission and Tickets to the Discoveries Monument
Admission to the exhibitions, film and terrace is €6.00. Just for the exhibitions it’s €3.00. There’s a 20% discount with the Lisboa Card.
It's closed on Mondays between October and February
Where to Stay by the Discoveries Monument
Altis Belém Hotel
If you want to stay on the waterfront, you can wake up to views of the Discoveries Monument from this hotel. Due to its location, it’s inspired by the Age of Discovery, but with a contemporary design. It has two restaurants (one of them distinguished with a Michelin star) and a bar with a terrace facing the river, plus a pool and spa on the rooftop, facing the Discoveries Monument.